For centuries, Burgundy, Provence and the Riviera have seduced travellers through a blend of medieval and modern cultures that is both sophisticated and delightful. This 16-day tour begins in Burgundy, a region renowned for its charming villages, vineyards and the birth of majestic Romanesque architecture. Travelling south through cosmopolitan Lyon and the Cote d’Azur, we admire fine Roman ruins, including the Pont du Gard, meet the medieval popes in Avignon and visit exceptional art galleries showcasing the exuberant atmosphere and inspirational modern colour of the French Riviera.
Atmospheric Romanesque architecture, at Cluny, Vezelay and Berze-la-Ville
Well-preserved Roman Gaul in Lyon, Arles and Nimes, and the celebrated aqueduct of Pont du Gard
Cosmopolitan Lyon: vibrant cuisine, worldclass museums and engaging street art
Pretty Avignon and the medieval world of the popes and courtiers
A world of modern art: Van Gogh in Arles; Picasso, Matisse and Chagall on the Riviera
Lifestyles of the rich and famous at Cap Ferrat’s extravagant Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
France’s premier gastronomic regions, from fine wines in Burgundy to Riviera haute cuisine
Days 1–5: Arrive Dijon; tour Cluny, Vezelay and Autun. Visit Beaune’s Hotel Dieu, home to Rogier van der Weyden’s Last Judgement, and Dijon’s Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.
Days 6–8: Tour Lyon’s Roman ruins, enjoy contemporary Lyonnais art and cuisine.
Days 9–11: Explore the papal palace in Avignon, the Roman ruins of Nimes and the extraordinary Pont du Gard, and walk in Van Gogh’s footsteps in Arles.
Days 12–16: Travel to Antibes via Cezanne’s Aix-en-Provence. Discover the glittering Cote d’Azur at the turn of the 20th century, from the grand villas of the wealthy to museums dedicated to Chagall and Matisse.
The tour begins at our hotel in Dijon and ends at our hotel in Antibes. Emirates and Qantas offer the best connections for this tour, flying into Geneva and out of Nice from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D
Saturday May 29: Arrival
Your tour leader Dr Kathleen Olive will greet you in the arrivals hall at Geneva International Airport and we will travel together to our hotel in Dijon. There is time to check-in and freshen up before dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Dijon (D)
Sunday May 30: Dijon and the Dukes of Burgundy
The Dukes of Burgundy were among the most sophisticated, powerful and rich men in medieval Europe. At its greatest extent, their territory was larger than the Kingdom of France – indeed, they appropriated large parts of France by playing the French and English off each other in the Hundred Years War. After a talk, this morning we visit their Palace of the Dukes, Dijon’s Museum of Fine Art, the Romanesque crypt of Saint-Benigne cathedral and the church of Notre-Dame. Overnight Dijon (B)
Monday May 31: Vézelay and the Magdalene
The transferral of relics and the pilgrims who swarmed to see them were key parts of the medieval economy. Vézelay Abbey preserved an important shrine to Mary Magdalene, thought to have ended her days in southern France. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the basilica is a masterpiece of Burgundian Romanesque. At nearby Saulieu we admire the range of Romanesque sculpture, a combination of piety and fantastical imagination, and we enjoy a tasting of the local white wine. Overnight Dijon (B, wine-tasting)
Tuesday June 1: Romanesque Autun, Burgundian Beaune
We spend the morning in Autun, where we admire the fine workmanship of Romanesque sculpture of St-Lazare cathedral, among the world’s best. We then transfer to Beaune, home to the medieval architecture of the Hôtel-Dieu. This medieval hospital contains Rogier van der Weyden’s Beaune altarpiece, the rich colours and intense emotions of its Last Judgement challenging European painters for many generations. At Notre-Dame, we admire fine 15th-century tapestries on the life of the Virgin, before returning to Dijon. Overnight Dijon (B, WT)
Wednesday June 2: Benedictines at Cluny, & Berzé-la-Ville
We depart Dijon for Lyon today, travelling first to the Cluny Abbey, which was the headquarters of the Benedictine order, that dominated medieval pilgrim routes. It was also the world’s largest church until the expansion of St Peter’s in Rome and its architecture was enormously influential as it spread. We trace it from its magnificent remains here to the intimate dimensions of the 11th-century Chapelle des Moines at Berzé-la-Ville, perhaps the private retreat of the abbot. Overnight Lyon (B, L)
Thursday June 3: Roman Lyon
Lyon (Lugdunum) was the thriving capital of Roman Gaul and the birthplace of the emperors Claudius and Caracalla. This morning we have a guided visit of Lyon’s Roman ruins and the Gallo-Roman Museum, which has a fine collection of archaeological finds from the area, including jewellery, mosaics and everyday objects. The afternoon is at leisure to explore the city’s numerous museums. Overnight Lyon (B)
Friday June 4: Fine art & contemporary murals
We begin the day with a guided walking tour and visit to Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts, which has a diverse collection of antiquities, objets d’art, and an excellent collection of painting and sculpture, from Impressionism to Léger, Picasso and Bacon. After free time for lunch, we continue to the silk-weavers’ district, Les Canuts, viewing the Roman theatre and some of the playful contemporary murals dotting the town. Tonight, we enjoy dinner in a celebrated restaurant, which upholds the traditional cuisine of the region. Overnight Lyon (B, D)
Saturday June 5: The mighty Rhône
In pre-modern Europe, rivers were key to the development of cities, allowing easy movement of people and goods. Lyon boasted an excellent location between two rivers, the Saône and the Rhône – the latter one of Europe’s most important waterways for trade. As we transfer to Avignon, we admire the tranquil scenery of the river and hills alongside it. We pause for a wine-tasting in Tain-l’Hermitage, followed by lunch by the Rhône. Overnight Avignon (B, wine-tasting, L)
Sunday June 6: The Popes in Avignon
By the early 14th century, Rome was unsafe: prone to malaria and ruled by scheming feudal families angling for the papal throne. After a deadlocked conclave in 1305, the newly-elected Frenchman Clement V refused to move to Rome, and a succession of seven popes ruled “in exile” from Avignon until 1377. This morning we visit the vast Palais des Papes, the Pont d’Avignon (made famous by the song), 14th-century ramparts and Musée du Petit Palais. Overnight Avignon (B)
Monday June 7: Van Gogh in Arles
Today we head to Arles, famed for an exceptional Roman and medieval heritage. Arles is one of the most important centres of Provençal culture, proud of its past yet vibrantly modern. We survey its ancient history at the amphitheatre, and encounter its great modern admirer: Van Gogh produced many of his greatest works here. What he loved was not the culture or history, but the brilliance of light. After our guided visit of the Fondation Vincent van Gogh and St Trophime, which so inspired him, we return to Avignon for a group dinner. Overnight Avignon (B, D)
Tuesday June 8: Roman Nîmes & the Pont du Gard
Like Lyon, Nîmes too boasts outstanding Roman remains and this morning we explore the sites for which the town is justifiably renowned. The magnificent Roman temple Maison Carrée is considered the purest and best preserved of all Roman temples. Other impressive sites we visit include the amphitheatre and the Jardins de la Fontaine, the 18th-century parklands with the remains of a Roman tower and temple. In the afternoon we continue to the astonishing Pont du Gard, the highest of the elevated Roman acqueducts. It runs for 50 kilometres and here crosses the Gardon river. Overnight Avignon (B)
Wednesday June 9: In Aix-en-Provence with Cézanne
We depart for Antibes today, travelling via Aix-en-Provence. This elegant provincial centre has enjoyed a long prominence due to its thermal springs, and was an important Roman site thanks to these health benefits. In the modern era, it has been indelibly associated with Cézanne, who experimented with abstraction and tone here and was so inspired by nearby Mont-Sainte-Victoire. We enjoy a walking tour of central Aix, including a guided visit of Cézanne’s atelier. In the afternoon, we continue on to Antibes, where we enjoy a stroll and dinner in a local restaurant after check-in. Overnight Antibes (B, D)
Thursday June 10: The light of the Riviera
From the 19th century, artists flocked to the French Riviera for the qualities of its light and landscape, economy of its lifestyle, and relative permissiveness of its morals! After a morning at leisure in Antibes – perhaps to explore the Marché Provencal or Musée Picasso – we encounter this exuberance in a walking tour of Old Nice, the city’s historic quarter and a microcosm of great Mediterranean ports such as Marseille and Naples. After lunch at leisure in the colourful flower market, we continue to the Musée National Marc Chagall. The spiritual themes of the paintings, mosaics and stained glass windows, and calm gardens surrounding the museum, are an oasis in this bustling tourist mecca. Overnight Antibes (B)
Friday June 11: Villa life on the Riviera
On the heels of the great modern artists, the rich and famous – and, eventually, mass tourism – came to the Riviera. The stunning coastline running from France into Italy still preserves some of the 20th century’s most extraordinary pleasure villas, including Greek revival at the Villa Kerylos and magnificent neo-classicism at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, recent protagonist of the fascinating Hare with the Amber Eyes. After touring these exclusive Cap Ferrat villas, we continue to seafront Villefranche-sur-Mer for lunch at leisure. Here, the tiny 16th-century Chapelle Saint-Pierre was neglected and filled with fishing nets when artist Jean Cocteau offered to restore it in 1957. With the help and support of the local community he decorated the chapel with murals celebrating the life of St Peter and dedicated to the local fishermen. Overnight Antibes (B)
Saturday June 12: Miró, Matisse and Giacometti
Today we make our way to the village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Here we visit the Fondation Maeght, an exceptional museum of modern art displaying works by Calder, Chagall, Braque, Giacometti and Miró. The museum is set in beautiful landscaped gardens, and after our visit we stroll through the village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. A mecca for artists throughout the 20th century, it has suffered for its beauty, and in high season its cobbled streets can be thronged with those browsing its many galleries and boutiques. Despite this it retains much of its charm. After lunch we travel to the Chapelle du Rosaire for a guided tour of the simple chapel decorated by Henri Matisse for a convent of Dominican nuns, in gratitude for kindness shown to him when ill. Returning to Antibes, we enjoy a farewell dinner together in a fine local restaurant. Overnight Antibes (B, D)
Sunday June 13: Departure
Our tour concludes after breakfast at our hotel in Antibes. Nice Airport is close by, and transfers to the airport are included for those whose flights have been booked with Academy Travel. (B)
Dr Kathleen Olive
A literary and cultural historian with a PhD from the University of Sydney, with particular expertise in Italy, Spain and Japan.
Dr Kathleen Olive is a literary and cultural historian with close to 15 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, Japan and the United States. She has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, interior design, fashion history and contemporary fiction.
Kathleen holds a BA with first class Honours and a PhD, both from the Department of Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. For a number of years she worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney, teaching Italian language, literature and history. Kathleen continues to teach, as a national lecturer for the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society (ADFAS), and in adult education courses in Sydney. In 2015, her edition of the Codex Rustici (a 15th-century commonplace book that Kathleen worked on with Nerida Newbigin, for her doctoral studies and for publication) was presented to Pope Francis on his first official visit to Florence.
Kathleen’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through to the early 20th century. In Italy she has led numerous tours focusing on the medieval and Renaissance periods. In Spain she has a particular concentration on the “Convivencia” of Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures in the south, and on the medieval pilgrimage routes of the north. Her tours of the USA’s north-east have focused on American collectors and their Gilded Age reinventions of European glory days, and in Japan she is particularly interested in contemporary design, from fashion to architecture. Kathleen speaks fluent Italian, is conversant in Spanish and understands French.
Kathleen was first involved on a tour to Italy in 2003 and it sparked her passion for on-the-spot communication of art and history. Since 2010 she has worked exclusively for Academy Travel, leading 6 tours a year. She has designed a number of our popular tours, from the Florence residential, to surveys of the courts of Renaissance Italy and of central Italy’s villas and gardens, as well as “twin city” tours to Palermo and Naples and to Florence and Rome. Closer to home, Kathleen is leading Academy Travel’s inaugural tour to Japan and our popular tours to Tasmania.
We asked Kathleen, what do you enjoy most about leading a group tour?
“I really enjoy travelling with groups who share interests in the history, culture and even food of a destination. It means that those personal connections are there right from the beginning, just waiting to be made.”
“There’s nothing I enjoy more than finding out the particular interests of my fellow travellers – an artist, a dish they love eating, their memories of a particular place – and finding a way to make an experience happen for them. That might mean recommending a particular wine bar, directing them to a museum that features artists they already like, or suggesting the best time of day for a view over a town. It’s so satisfying to be involved in making these kinds of memories for people.”
“Many of the people I travel with comment on my passion for the places I visit. It’s not just that I know my names and dates – it’s that I really enjoy bringing out the connections between history and art, for example, or between landscape and food. I never grow tired of injecting this kind of life into ‘dry’ academic knowledge.”
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity